Cajun Country and Yellow Rails - 2012
A Scouting Trip to SW Louisiana
October 24-30, 2012

I led a small group to SW Louisiana to participate in the fourth annual Yellow Rails and Rice Festival
in Jennings, LA. We had a blast at the festival and on the rest of the trip.

Southwest Louisiana

Here are some photos from this adventure:

We flew into Lafayette, LA, and headed over to the Nature Conservancy's Cypress Swamp Preserve.

Hmmm, cypress and swamp....

and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks,

Wood Ducks,

American Alligators,

Pied-billed Grebes,

White Ibises,

Green Anoles, and

Massachusetts birders getting used to Louisiana.

We headed for Jennings, our base for the trip. The next morning, we checked out the local birds

including this Loggerhead Shrike behind the motel

Andy and I were all over it.

The rest of that day was devoted to the YRARF events, a morning lecture, and our visit to the rice fields.

This autumn harvest of rice displaces wintering rails, sparrows, and other birds as the combines cut the grain.
So the birds go squirting off in all directions while the birders, whether on foot or riding the combine, try to
identify them. It was a hoot.

Wellies were useful, along with dusk masks and earplugs on the combine,

or when downwind of the chaff plume!

Our group saw 5 Yellow Rails (no photos, alas) and large numbers of Soras and Virginia Rails and one American Bittern,

on the wing,

and afoot. Various other birds were around, including

Cattle Egrets,

Eurasian Collared Doves,

White-faced Ibises

and skeins of Greater White-fronted Geese.

Whilst enjoying the best jambalaya I've ever had at a backyard picnic, we saw

Eastern Meadowlarks and

Inca Doves. After the jambalaya, we checked out some flooded fields in the dusk:

the ducks and ibises were in an uproar,

probably due to this bad boy, cruising the pickins.

Bald Eagle

Part of the festival was the Rice Gala, also fun,

especially the Cajun band with Gram on the spoons!

We traveled to Kisatche NF with a large group of festivalites to visit the piney woods.

These long-leaf pine forests are the habitat of the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker,

I think the group was just too noisy and big to find these elusive birds (it is much easier during nesting season).
Nevertheless, we saw some neat stuff, including

very cooperative Bachman's Sparrows,

Barred Owls,

American Beautyberry in fruit,

American Bird Grasshoppers,

a big crab spider,

a Six-lined Racerunner, and, of course,

Pine Warblers.

We spent considerable time at some of the National Wildlife Refuges, including Lacassine NWR:

American Alligator,

American Coot,

Gulf Fritillary on Bur-Marigold,

Blue-winged Teal,

Caspian and Gull-billed terns,

Fox Squirrel,

Golden Silk Orb-weaver,

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-shouldered Hawk in the fog,

Tricolored Heron, and

Vermilion Flycatcher.

We also visited Cameron Prairie NWR and left wishing we could spend much more time there:

obligatory American Alligator,

American Bittern,

White-faced and White ibises along with (probably) Boat-tailed Grackles,

likely a hybrid grackle,

Great Egret,

Green Heron,

Pied-billed Grebe,

immature Purple Gallinule,

Roseate Spoonbills,

Killdeer and Wilson's Snipe,

Tricolored Heron, and

Wood Ducks.

We also visited Sabine NWR:

Caspian Tern,

Dark-eyed Junco,

Hermit Thrush,

Neotropic Cormorants,

Scoping the ducks (note the marsh fire),

marsh fire,

Pine Warbler,

two Savannah Sparrows (quite different in coloration),

White Ibis, Roseat Spoonbills, and both yellowlegs, and

immature White-crowned Sparrow.

We had a great time one morning birding Fabacher Road in Sulphur, LA:

Blue Grosbeak,

Brown Thrasher,

Cattle Egrets and cattle,

Ruby-crowned Kinglet,

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher,

Sedge Wrens, and

Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Down along the Gulf coast, we spent too little time at Peveto Woods:

Black-throated Green Warbler,

Eastern Cottontail,

Philadelphia Vireo,

Red-breasted Nuthatch,

immature male Ruby-throated Hummingbird,

White-winged Dove, and

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Other coastal birds included:

Clapper Rail near Cameron Jetty,

American White Pelicans in Cameron,

American Kestrel in Oak Grove,

Black-bellied Whistling Duck family in roadside ditch west of Peveto Woods,

Caspian and Royal terns,

Piping Plover,

Ruddy Turnstones, and

Turkey Vulture.

Gotta give a shout-out to two fun eating spots:

Steamboat Bill's in Lake Charles, and

T-Boys in beautiful downtown Creole.

And here are a few more shots:

Tropical Checkered Skipper

Long-tailed Skipper,

Purple Water Hyacinth,

Tersa Sphinx Moth.


Great trip! I think we'll do it again next year.

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